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  • Writer's pictureBetty Ferreira

What is Strategic Foresight and Futurism and Why Is It Important?

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

I was initially uneasy about my new title; I really was. Foresight Strategist and Futurist??? The title sounded a bit bohemian, abstract, and slightly presumptuous but it is really not any of that at all, let me explain.

Foresight and futurism are not about predicting the future. My peers and I are not fortune tellers; we don’t read tea leaves or your aura, we are observers of the driving forces of change and we analyze their potential and current uses and impacts on industries, sectors, and in society in general.

My purpose is to inspire and accelerate a future of good for all. I have used and continue to use foresight and futurist methodologies to help organizations prepare for and/or create their preferred future (as long as it is for ‘good’).

Foresight and futurist methodologies are decades old and have been used by governments, think tanks, corporations and not-for-profits. Foresight Strategists and Futurists use well-established methods to help organizations of all types understand alternate futures and support them in preparing for and/or creating a preferred future.

For example, President John F. Kennedy used foresight to help him understand which approach to use for the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United Nations is using foresight to define strategies that will impact the Sustainable Development Goals, the British Ministry of Defence uses it to understand Global Strategic Trends, and thousands of companies, government departments and not-for-profits use foresight to inform and guide their decisions and strategies.

Why is Strategic Foresight Important?

Foresight research on the development the mega-shifts shaping society, the use of technologies across all industries, and the nature of business model transformation is vital in this ‘age of acceleration’*.

Exponential advancements in technology are disrupting companies, industries and the markets at a quick pace. No industry or sector is immune. Business models are transforming at a much quicker rate than in the past because technologies are advancing exponentially and because our adoption of new technologies is faster than ever before.

In order to understand the exponential pace of technology and disruption in business models, organizations need a shift in mindset and a robust methodology that will break through common barriers to foresight thinking including group think, fear of the unknown, institutional conformity, short-termism, and resistance to change+.

We are living in an era that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA). Strategic foresight provides a rigorous structured methodology that helps organizations manage in these times of ‘VUCA’ by providing them with the tools to better understand possible, plausible and probable futures and to strengthen their capacity to be resilient in this ever-changing world.

What are some of the foresight competencies¥?

· Creative Thinking is the ability to generate innovative and creative solutions by reframing problems, using information from wide-ranging possibilities, using information generated from foresight thinking to develop unique approaches and solutions.

· Framing is the capacity to scope the topic and understand it within its own current and historical context and system and the ability to define the specific issue and their current conditions.

· Scanning is the capacity to scan the horizon to understand the driving forces of change (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal) and to help identify possible, plausible and probable scenarios of the future, discussed in further detail below.

For example, what are the new forms of cryptocurrencies and how can social impact organizations use them to generate revenue? What are chatbots and how are they being used to help people with depression?

· Futuring is the capacity to identify baseline and alternative futures in using both qualitative and quantitative means. The process to develop scenarios relies on the ability to converge on the most probably scenario but also includes the ability to allow diverging perspectives in order to generate alternative futures without bias, restrictions or limitations.

There are various iterations of scenarios and one of the most common set of scenarios are: possible (any and all scenarios); plausible (scenarios that could happen), probable (scenario that is likely to happen), and preferred (the scenario the organization prefers).

· Backcasting is the capacity to develop a work-back plan that connects the current state of the organization to its preferred future state. · Quantitative Fluency is the ability to translate a problem or issue described qualitatively by using mathematical reasoning including financial, economic, using statistical forecasting of current and alternate future scenarios, and in risk assessments.

For example, quantitative analyses can be used to determine the financial resilience of current and future state scenarios, the potential evidence-based socioeconomic impact of a product, program or service’, and/or identify any historical, present or future trends that are financial, technological or impact-oriented.

· Storytelling or Visioning is the ability to descriptively summarize the preferred future scenarios in a way that is memorable, meaningful and relevant. This includes sensemaking of the past, present and future scenarios as well as the ability to set specific goals and targets to achieve the preferred future scenario.

How am I using Foresight?

I use foresight as a lens for all projects. Here’s an example of some of the projects that I am working on that include foresight methodologies:

· Developing a strategic plan and business model for a provincial association

· Developing a three-dimensional risk management framework for a national network

· Developing scenarios to help define potential future funding and revenue scenarios

· I also speak about foresight at public conferences and for private client events, my most recent speaks include:

  • Future Now Foresight Mindset: The Greatest Shift

  • Fiscal Foresight

  • Disrupting Good

Sharing Information About Signals and Trends on How Society Is Changing…

As part of my purpose to inspire and accelerate a future of good I will share news of signals and trends that are impacting humanity through:

· My LinkedIn and Twitter feeds, and

· Through my new Future Now weekly journal found my new website This journal is a compilation of international news stories about how humanity is being impacted by artificial and augmented intelligence.

I am certainly not uneasy about my new title, I am very excited about launching my new brand Goodcasting and bringing foresight competencies and methodology more formally to companies, governments and not-for-profit organizations looking to strengthen strategies that inspire and accelerate a future of good for people, communities and society.

Are you using a foresight mindset? Want to learn more?

Let’s talk.

* Said by Thomas Friedman, The New York Times columnist and author

+ See “With Foresight the Frog Might Not Croak”, The World Today (April and May 2017) by Cat Tully, Alun Rhydderch and Peter Glenday

¥ Taken from Foresight Competency Model, Association of Professional Futurists.

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